GPO plans complete shift to cloud email

Cloud integration efforts continue to progress throughout the federal government. Increasingly, agencies are not just exploring the possibilities offered by cloud solutions, but actively implementing these technologies.

The latest example of this trend is the Government Printing Office. As NextGov reported, the GPO will soon become the first legislative branch agency to embrace cloud computing by moving completely to a hosted email service.

A significant shift
At first glance, the GPO's adoption of a cloud-based email service may seem like a relatively minor event within the federal government's broader move toward cloud integration. However, this shift is significant in light of the GPO's status as a legislative branch agency. As the news source noted, these agencies are exempt from the executive branch's cloud-first policy directive. Whereas most federal departments are obligated to consider cloud computing solutions first and foremost when planning new IT services, this is not the case for the GPO, Library of Congress, Government Accountability Office and other legislative agencies. 

This makes the GPO's decision to shift its email into a cloud environment an entirely independent and voluntary move. It therefore speaks more to government agencies' evolving attitudes toward cloud services than many other recent federal cloud efforts.

Speaking to the news source, Chuck Riddle, CIO of the GPO, asserted that this will not be an isolated incident.

"I'm sure it's only a matter of time before other agencies in the legislative branch also move to cloud email," he explained, the source reported.

Cloud benefits
This move to cloud-based email will significantly improve the GPO's efficiency and overall capabilities. Most notably, Riddle noted that the agency's employees will see their email account size limits approximately double, the news source reported.

Critically, this expansion will help the GPO's IT department become more efficient and focus on higher-level issues.

"We're constantly having to work with users to delete unnecessary mail in the current system," said Riddle, NextGov reported. "You know, they run out of space and they can't send mail. Obviously, moving to something with that much more space frees them up tremendously to not worry about that."

This speaks to one of the more overarching benefits of cloud computing. With these services in place, organizations can scale their usage up or down as needed. With on-premise solutions, on the other hand, there is a frequent need to adapt to the available technology, as was the case with the GPO's previous email solution.

Further efforts
Riddle explained that the GPO aims to have its fully cloud-based email system up and running by the end of the year. Furthermore, he suggested that this move will hopefully serve as stepping stone toward broader cloud integration within the agency. Currently, the GPO uses a private cloud for its financial system, but otherwise is entirely on-premise for its IT needs.

This, along with a range of other digital-focused efforts on the part of the GPO, has led many officials to argue that the agency should change its name, NextGov reported. Printing remains a key part of the GPO's duties, but it is no longer its sole focus. Increasingly, the agency is turning to digital efforts, leading some to argue that the Government Publishing Office would be a more apt title.

A continued move into the cloud computing space will only further this transition away from traditional printing, and open up new possibilities for the agency. However, this process must be pursued carefully. Cybersecurity is an issue, as the agency likely possesses a range of sensitive government documents that have not been approved for public view. A single breach could expose all of this information.

By working with a trusted cloud integration services provider, though, the GPO and other federal agencies can take advantage of the cloud without putting their assets at risk.